Tampa starts work on urban Water Works Park

Plans for the Water Works project do not include new parking.
Published October 10 2013
Updated October 10 2013

TAMPA — Check out what $7.4 million is buying the city at Water Works Park, where construction is about to start.

There's the rejuvenation of the bubbling spring, an event pavilion with a festival lawn, a dog park, a playground with a splash pad, a floating boat dock, a kayak launch and a new section of the Riverwalk, part of it going over a spring-fed basin.

Here's what that money doesn't buy: parking.

For obvious reasons, the city doesn't want to put parking on a piece of riverfront land.

But more than that, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn envisions Water Works Park, like downtown's Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, as the outdoor hub of a true neighborhood that isn't there now, but that he thinks is coming.

"This is not a suburban park," he said after a groundbreaking celebration Wednesday. "This is an urban environment. That's what we want to encourage. That helps us with, eventually, the development of light rail — you know, create the density around these urban green spaces and make them walkable, make them destinations that you don't have to drive to."

The density is expected to come to Water Works Park, which is across the Hillsborough River from Blake High School, from a series of nearby projects in various stages of development:

• Next door, the new Ulele Native-Inspired Foods & Spirits is being developed at a cost of more than $4 million by the Gonzmart family, which owns the Columbia Restaurant chain. Located in the old water works pump house, the restaurant is expected to open next spring, about the same time as the 5-acre park.

• Just north of Ulele, developers Adam Harden and Chas Bruck have a major rezoning coming up Oct. 24 on the 49 acres once known as the Heights. They're proposing 1,900 multifamily housing units, 100 boat slips and 260,000 square feet of offices, stores and cafes. Inside an old trolley barn, a hulking red-brick warehouse with "Tampa Armature Works" painted across the top, they're looking to put offices on the upper floor, with restaurants and event space below.

• Longer-term, the city and the Tampa Housing Authority are working on plans for 140 acres on the western bank of the river, about 80 percent of which is in government ownership. On the south, officials are looking at demolishing and redeveloping the North Boulevard Homes and Mary Bethune public housing complexes. On the north sits a 12-acre city truck maintenance yard just a block from the river. Buckhorn wants to get rid of the trucks and build shops and houses.

At Water Works Park, officials say, there is parking nearby, even now. The city will have about 100 on-street parking spaces, it has a lot nearby and it is working with Stetson University College of Law to provide more, city spokeswoman Ali Glisson said.